Q and A

Q. OK, what was with the ticket lottery? What were you guys thinking?

A. Rather than rehashing it all here, we kindly direct your attention to the extraordinarily thorough Ticketing Afterburn Report.

Q.Whole lotta first-time Burners this year. Did you do anything to help acculturate them?

A. We did, in fact. We anticipated a large number of first-timers year (turned out to be approximately 35% of our population, which is a pretty big increase from our normal 20-25%). In order to make sure these folks were acculturated before they arrived in Black Rock City, we cranked up a number of communications campaigns throughout the spring and summer to spread the word about how Black Rock City works — information regarding traffic, Leave No Trace, and our culture. We also totally overhauled the Survival Guide, sent it out with each ticket sold (a first!), and created a mobile-friendly digital version of it (another first!). All in all, we’d say that the large influx of first-timers didn’t do harm to the culture of Black Rock City — in fact, it seems like we’ve got a whole slew of great new participants!

Q. Getting in the Gate was so easy this year! What happened?

A. This was a two-part effort. One part was that more of YOU good people planned ahead to arrive at non-peak traffic times, which helped a lot. The second part is that the Gate crew worked hard to retool their systems for processing people entering Black Rock City, speeding it up significantly. This entailed everything from the road layout, the sorting of cars by needs as they came in, troubleshooting processes, the creation of a Gate information radio station, and a new ticket scanning technology. All in all, it worked great! But the key to all of this is YOU planning to arrive at non-peak times, so keep that up in the years to come.

Q. Exodus was a breeze! What happened?

A. We leaned hard on a concerted communications campaign this year around Traffic, educating people about when it’s best to arrive and depart Black Rock City in order to avoid the peak traffic times. We were pretty excited to see the fruits of that effort in largely non-existent wait times to get out of BRC this year. And that’s because of YOU and your planning. Now, here’s the thing … we can’t get complacent, because if everybody thinks, “well that was a breeze I can leave anytime”, we’ll find ourselves right back in long Exodus lines again. So, if you are able, plan a non-peak time departure — then we all win.

Q. That camp’s (or vehicle’s) music is awful! It’s too loud! I can’t sleep! Can’t you do something?

A. Sound — and sound pollution — is perhaps one of the most divisive issues in Black Rock City, since it’s one of the easiest ways to blast your radical self-expression across many miles and many people at once. And the thing is, that has the power to affect a lot of people’s experience, sometimes for the positive, sometimes not. Depends on the music, the volume, and the person who happens to be hearing it. Everybody’s got different tastes. What sounds like a handful of spoons in a garbage disposal to one person might sound like heaven to another. To address this issue as fairly as possible, we’ve long zoned the city to place large scale sound camps on the 2:00 and 10:00 arms of the city, so their sound systems aim into the open playa rather than camping areas. This year, in addition to our normal sound policy, we implemented a vehicle sound policy for when mutant vehicles are cruising city streets and the open playa. We do our best to limit the number of rules we impose, but this is an area where having some basic guidelines in place helps everybody out. Ultimately, it’s up to YOU to take responsibility for your own experience, and to work with your fellow participants to come to agreeable understandings around contentious issues. And if that’s not working for you, get a Black Rock Ranger involved to help mediate a mutually-agreeable solution.

Q. Drivers are speeding around Black Rock City streets and it’s kicking up all kinds of dust! Is there anything you can do about it?

A. The speed limit in Black Rock City is 5MPH for a reason — a couple reasons, really. First off, it’s for public safety, giving bikes and pedestrians ample time to get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle, and for vehicles to stop before hitting somebody. Second, 5MPH is the optimum speed (other than zero) to avoid kicking up excess dust. And while both Law Enforcement and Black Rock Rangers do enforce this rule, they can’t be everywhere at once. Your best bet is to either flag down a speeding vehicle and talk to them (nicely works best) about the speed limit, or get a good description of the vehicle and report them to the Black Rock Rangers. Vehicles caught violating the rules can and will have their DMV license (and driving privileges) revoked.

Q. Law enforcement seemed to be out in force, and cracking down on people … what’s up with that?

A. Well here’s the thing … all local, state, and federal laws apply at Burning Man. And, since Burning Man takes place on public (BLM) land, Law Enforcement (LE) agencies have every right to be out on the playa, enforcing the law. If you break the law at Burning Man, they can and will cite you and/or arrest you. The best way to NOT get arrested or cited at Burning Man is to NOT BREAK THE LAW.

Our experience has shown that Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) aren’t sitting back and waiting for you to wander over and do something illegal in front of them so they can issue you a citation. They stop vehicles with broken tailights or obscured license plates, walk through parties and onto art cars, smell your cigarettes, look for paraphernalia, and sometimes engage in highly-sophisticated undercover operations using agents that look like Burners. Yes, really. Technically, they have the right to do this stuff. But they do not have the right to violate your civil rights while doing their job. We have received reports of LEOs being overly aggressive and mistreating people during searches, questioning and arrests. It’s important to know your rights, and how to interact with a LEO.

Burning Man works throughout the year with LE to help LEOs understand Burning Man culture, so that they can interact with our participants in the most effective way possible while doing their jobs. In fact, our Black Rock Rangers have a special team, called the LEAL Team, that is dedicated to helping LEOs do a better job in regards to the citizens of Black Rock City. You can help them in this task by providing useful and accurate information about your experience with LE on playa … so if you have had an interaction with an LEO at Burning Man – be it positive or negative, please let us know by emailing feedback@burningman.com.

Q. I heard things about Burning Man not having “rape kits” on playa. What are they and why don’t you have them in Black Rock City?

A. Unfortunately, sexual assaults can and do occur in Black Rock City, albeit relatively rarely. Burning Man takes every one of these incidents very seriously, and we are working to raise awareness within the community about sexual assault on playa, and to engage our participants in the effort to prevent it. As this is a complex and nuanced subject worthy of more space than we can reasonably allot here, please see this blog post for a detailed discussion about this issue and how we can all address it together.

Q. I saw that a child went missing on playa this year. What does Burning Man do in these situations?

A. When a teenage girl went missing on playa in 2012, the Black Rock Rangers and Pershing County Sheriff’s Office worked together to secure the entrances and exits of the city, conduct an investigation, put the word out to the community (through BMIR, fliers distributed throughout BRC, and word of mouth), and return her safely to her father. While Burning Man has an established protocol for locating missing children, this was the first reported case of a child intentionally going missing and not wishing to be found. Following on this experience, Burning Man is working to establish a set protocol for this type of situation going forward, as well as determining what other situations may need to be addressed.